A terrorist whose plan to massacre on a crowded high-speed international train was foiled by the heroic actions of a group of passengers has been sentenced to life imprisonment by a French court.
Ayoub El-Khazzani, 31, opened fire with an assault rifle on the Thalys Amsterdam-Paris train in August 2015. After shooting two passengers, Khazzani was crushed to the ground and held back by three American tourists, including two out of service. military and a British traveler.
Khazzani was convicted of attempted murder in connection with terrorism, possession of weapons in connection with terrorism and participation in a terrorist group.
The prosecution told the court that French intelligence agencies believed the attack was planned from Syria and led by Abdelhamid Abaaoud, who allegedly orchestrated the November 2015 bombings and shootings in Paris that left 130 dead.
Witnesses told the court that Khazzani came out of a toilet stall on the Thalys 9364 train shirtless and with an automatic rifle strapped to his shoulder, shortly after the train crossed the Belgian border into northern France .
He shot at a French passenger who had snatched the rifle from him with a second weapon, a pistol. However, when he went to open fire on other passengers, three US nationals on vacation attacked him. Four people were injured in the attack, but investigators said the heroic passengers prevented a “massacre”.
Khazzani, who was carrying 300 rounds, was on the plug S security list of radicalized individuals considered to be a security risk. At first he claimed he boarded the train to steal passengers, but later admitted that he wanted to “kill Americans” in retaliation for the bombing in Syria.
Two of the three American passengers, Anthony Sadler, a student, and Alek Skarlatos, a member of the National Guard, testified at the trial. Spencer Stone, an Air Force serviceman who ran straight at the gunman and threw him to the ground, testified by video link.
Stone said Khazzani attempted to kill him three times, first with the semi-automatic rifle that got stuck, then with a pistol that didn’t fire either, and finally with a box cutter, nearly cutting that thumb off.
British passenger Chris Norman, 67, helped tie up the Moroccan-born gunman before police arrived. The four men received the Legion of Honor and were named honorary citizens of France. Clint Eastwood turned their heroic deeds into a film called Le 15:17 à Paris.
The attorney general said Khazzani fought furiously when passengers attempted to foil his attack. “What strikes you is Ayoub El-Khazzani’s determination. He didn’t give up for a second, ”he said.